Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Mba’ekuaa: Guarani and Kaiowá Archival Futures

Developing an immersive spatial audio composition in collaboration with Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous communities in Brazil.

This image shows a UCL academic working beside an indigenous Brazilian man. Audio equipment is visible in the background. The image has a green hue.
Organisers: Patrick White (UCL Slade School) and Raffaella Fryer-Moreira (PhD candidate, UCL Anthropology)

About the project:

This project proposes to develop an immersive spatial audio composition in collaboration with Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous communities in Brazil. Drawing on field sounds recorded over the last 18 months as part of the Guarani and Kaiowá Digital Archive Project, supported by the British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Programme, this project invites members of the Guarani and Kaiowá communities to develop a creative composition of their archival sounds in a 3D audio installation and live spatial audio performance. By inviting indigenous communities to take an active role in the creation, curation and presentation of their heritage, we seek to challenge the historical exclusion of communities from the narration of their histories and the imagination of their futures. 

The project builds on a series of collaborative experiments developed by the UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab in partnership with Guarani and Kaiowá Indigenous communities in Brazil, which explore innovative approaches to archival practice. Following the initial EMKP documentation project Oga Pysy: Documenting Guarani and Kaiowá Ceremonial Houses in Mato Grosso do Sul, we developed a series of follow-on projects to explore the creative, collaborative, and sensorial affordances made possible by different digital media. These included Making Violence Visible, supported by UCL Global Engagement, The Guarani and Kaiowá VR Museum, supported by UCL Grand Challenges and the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies, and Ecologies of Thought, supported by UCL Global Engagement. Together, these projects assemble a Guarani and Kaiowá Digital Archive which pushes the boundaries of heritage practice in both multimedia form and collaborative method, with most recordings made by community members themselves.

This year, we will extend our collaboration further. Support from UCL Music Futures has made it possible for two Guarani and Kaiowá representatives to visit the UK and join our team in-person. Mba’ekuaa: Guarani and Kaiowá Archival Futures project will be developed between May and July 2023 through a series of residencies, workshops and public events in London and elsewhere, featuring live sonic performances, talks and panel discussions with participants and guests, and collaborative jam sessions where community members will be joined by researchers, artists and musicians in a creative dialogue and exchange.

Planned activities

  • Online Seminar Series: Guarani and Kaiowá community members will co-lead discussions with Museum representatives, researchers, artists and sound engineers and unpack the issues at stake. 
  • Residency at MONOM Studios, Berlin: community members will be invited to assume the creative direction of a 48.8 immersive speaker array and explore the new sonic experiences it makes possible. 
  • Interactive Workshop and Public Performance, London Climate Action Week: community members will be invited to introduce the project, outlining its methodology, inviting audiences to participate, and presenting the finished sound composition in a live performance and collaborative jam. 

This is an image of an indigenous musical instrument of Brazilian tribes.
This project draws attention to the imminent threats faced by indigenous communities in Brazil whose survival and knowledge is at risk. Sound plays a key role in Guarani and Kaiowá ecological relations - it is defined as an Mba’ekuaa, a technique, know-how, or instrument for cosmic dialogue between humans, entities, plants and animals. Such techniques of dialogue contrast to the extractivism that has led our planet to ecological crisis, and Guarani and Kaiowá know-how offers an alternative model for thinking and forging ecological relations. In this sense, the Guarani concept of Mba'ekuaa describes both the content of the sound recordings (which document local techniques for building inter-species dialogue) as well as the form of the sound composition itself (which document the techniques we used to build an archive collaboratively). This radical epistemic and technical equivalence rejects any claims that the technical devices of Modernity - such as a spatial audio speaker array - are any more advanced than Guarani and Kaiowá devices for ecological dialogue, positioning Guarani and Kaiowá communities as intellectual equals and co-producers of knowledge. 

Confirmed participants: Patrick White (Slade School) Raffaella Fryer-Moreira (PhD candidate, UCL Anthropology) Scott Hill (Guarani and Kaiowá Filmmaker) Nhandesy Dona Neuza (Guarani and Kaiowá Elder) Fabi Fernandes (Institute for the Development of Art and Culture) Guilherme Ribeiro (Musician & Software Engineer) Robin Hood (Sound Engineer & Musician).